Imagine this: You’ve just brought home a tiny, energetic pup, and as you watch them explore their new surroundings, you realize it’s time to pick the perfect food to keep them healthy and happy. The pet food aisle, though, can feel like an overwhelming sea of options. How do you choose the best food for your small-breed dog? 

At A Pup Above, we get it. Picking the right food is more than just grabbing a bag off the shelf — it's about understanding what your pint-sized pup truly needs to thrive.

What Nutritional Needs Are Unique to Small Breeds?

Small breed dogs might be tiny, but they have some big nutritional needs. Here’s what sets them apart:

  • Higher Metabolism: These little guys burn energy faster than their larger counterparts. This means they need food rich in calories and nutrients to keep up with their energetic lifestyle.
  • Compact Stomachs: Small breed dogs have smaller stomachs, so their food needs to pack a punch in smaller portions. High-quality, nutrient-dense food is a must.
  • Specific Protein Requirements: Protein is a key player in maintaining muscle mass and overall health, especially important for active small breeds. Look for foods with high-quality protein sources.
  • Dental Health:Smaller dogs can be prone to dental issues. Foods designed for small breeds often have kibble that's the right size and texture to help keep their teeth clean and healthy.
  • Balanced Nutrition: Just like us, small breed dogs need a balanced diet with the right mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. They need a variety of nutrients to support their overall health, immune system, and coat condition.

How Do I Read Dog Food Labels for Small Breeds?

Transforming yourself into a pro label reader can be a game-changer when choosing food for your small breed dog. 

With this in mind, let's break down what to look for:

Ingredient Hierarchy

Ever notice ingredients are listed in a specific order? That's because ingredients are weighed when raw and included in descending order by weight in the product. A rule of thumb is to opt for foods with a specific, high-quality protein (like chicken or beef) listed in the first few ingredients.

Look Out for “Complete and Balanced”

If you see this, pat yourself on the back. This phrase isn't just fancy food lingo. It actually means the food you're holding has all the nutrients in the right proportions to meet the entirety of your small breed dog's dietary needs.

Know Your Meat from Your Meals

Spotting “meat” or “meat meal” on a label isn't alarming unless it's missing a descriptor like “chicken” or “beef.” Foods with a specified meat or meal source are usually a cut above the rest, providing bucket-loads of concentrated protein to fuel your little dog's adventures.

Make Sense of Carbs

Carbohydrates get a bad rap sometimes, but in the right amount, they are an excellent source of energy for your energetic small-breed dog. However, be wary of labels with unidentified grains or “cereals.” Whole grains like brown rice or oats are a much healthier option.

What Are the Different Types of Small Breed Dog Foods?

When it comes to feeding your small breed dog, you’ll quickly find there are several types of dog foods available, each with its own set of benefits. Understanding these options can help you decide what’s best for your small dog.

Dry Kibble

This is a classic for a reason. It’s convenient, easy to store, and much more cost-effective. Perfect for those who love a no-fuss, no-mess feeding time.

Wet Canned Food

Got a picky eater on your hands? Wet food might be your savior. Its rich flavor and high moisture content make it more appealing to some dogs. Plus, it's great for hydration. Just be prepared for a bit more clean-up and a slightly higher price tag.

Raw Diets

Think of raw diets as going back to basics. Fresh meat, bones, and veggies that mimic what dogs would eat in the wild. It’s a bit more work and requires careful handling, but some pet parents swear by the results.

Dehydrated Foods

These are like the superheroes of dog food. Packed with nutrients and easy to prepare — just add water, and voila! They offer the benefits of a raw diet without the hassle of extensive prep work.

Fresh, Human-Grade Meals

This is where A Pup Above shines. Our sous-vide cooked meals, like Chicka Chicka Bow Wow and Porky’s Luau, are made with top-quality ingredients you’d find in your own kitchen. These meals are nutrient-dense and delicious, making mealtime something your dog will look forward to every day.

Grain-Free vs. Grain-Inclusive

The grain debate can be confusing, but it boils down to what works best for your dog. Grain-free diets are great for dogs with allergies or sensitivities, while grain-inclusive options provide wholesome carbs and fiber from ingredients like brown rice and oats.

What Mistakes Should You Avoid When Choosing Small-Breed Dog Food?

Now that you’ve got the scoop on all things small-breed dog food, you might be wondering what pitfalls to watch out for. Choosing the right food for your little buddy is important, but it's easy to make mistakes if you're not careful. 

Here are some common ones to avoid:

Overlooking Calorie Needs

As touched on earlier, small-breed dogs have high energy levels and fast metabolisms, which means they need calorie-dense food. Don’t be tempted to feed them the same food as larger breeds, as it might not meet their energy requirements.

Ignoring Kibble Size

It might seem like a small detail, but kibble size matters. Food that's too large can be difficult for small breeds to chew, leading to dental issues or even choking hazards. Always opt for appropriately sized kibble.


Small dogs need small portions. It’s easy to overfeed them, which can lead to obesity and related health issues. Follow feeding guidelines and adjust based on your dog's activity level and metabolism.

Neglecting Nutrient Balance

A balanced diet is key. Ensure the food you choose provides a good mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to support your dog's overall health.

Switching Foods Too Quickly

Introducing a new food should be a gradual process to avoid digestive upset. Mix the new food with the old one, slowly increasing the proportion of new food over a week or two.

So, Which Small-Breed Dog Food Is Best?

At the end of the day, the best small-breed dog food is one that fits your dog’s unique nutritional needs and palate. It’s all about high-quality ingredients, the right kibble size, and a formula that keeps your pup energized and healthy.

For personalized advice, it’s always a good idea to chat with your vet. They can help tailor recommendations to your dog’s specific health needs and guide you to the best choice.


Choosing the right food for your small breed dog can seem like a daunting task, but with a bit of knowledge and attention to detail, you can find the perfect match for your pint-sized companion. From understanding their unique nutritional needs to navigating the pet food aisle with confidence, you’re now equipped to make informed decisions that will keep your little buddy thriving.

At A Pup Above, we’re passionate about providing the best for your dogs. Our fresh, human-grade meals are designed to offer top-notch nutrition and delicious taste that your dog will love. Ready to elevate your dog's mealtime experience? 

Check us out today to find the perfect nutritious meals for your small breed companion and give them the best start to a healthy, happy life. Let's make every meal a moment of joy and health!


Nutritional Considerations for Toy and Small Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals

Do Small Dogs Have More Dental Problems Than Large Dogs? | American Kennel Club (AKC)

Is Grain-Free Dog Food Bad? | American Kennel Club (AKC)

How Often Should Dogs Eat and How Much Should You Feed Them? | AKC